PHOENIX, AZ - JANUARY 27: Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman (L) and New England Patriots running back Shane Vereen square off in 'Madden NFL 15' for Microsoft's Game Before the Game on Xbox One Super Bowl Edition at the Phoenix Convention Center on January 27, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images for Microsoft)

In the 90’s, many people who turned to video games, did so because they weren’t interested in sports. We were not athletically inclined, or maybe we just found them boring. But that isn’t the case in the modern era. Everyone’s a gamer, and that means that many traditional sports and Madden fans are also becoming esports fans.

While I love League of Legends, and VALORANT, and Counter-Strike, I have always struggled with watching sim sports played competitively. Like so many, I wondered why I would want to watch the virtual Detroit Lions rather than the actual Detroit Lions. Then I watched the actual Detroit Lions, and got my answer.

But this year, I decided it was time to put more of an interest into the Sports Sim Esports. As a big football fan, Madden seemed the most logical place to start. But unlike League of Legends, who have the LCS schedule posted on their front page. And unlike Call of Duty League, who has a schedule posted to their front page, finding information on competitive Madden was surprisingly difficult.

What do I watch? Where can I watch it? When? And yes, perhaps most importantly, why should I? These were the questions that ate away at me as I dove into the world of professional Madden. And it occurred to me that if I was struggling with some of these questions, then others probably were as well. Here are my answers.

What should I watch?

This is perhaps the most tricky of the questions to answer, because the Madden pro scene is very much divided. There are the official tournaments and events run by EA, and the amateur tournaments run in bars and arcades across the country. The main events are run through EA themselves during the NFL season. During the season, all 32 teams have 1 player competing in their name, which culminates at the Madden Bowl on Super Bowl weekend.

But just because we’re in the NFL off-season, doesn’t mean there’s nothing to watch. In fact, the Madden Classic and Madden Challenge are both set to kick off in February. The Madden Classic is running Madden NFL 21 on Playstation 4, while the Challenge will be on the X-Box One. Maybe we’ll get next-gen tournaments next year. That is, if we’re actually able to buy one of the new systems.

Where and When?

Unlike many esports, where we have settled in to the groove of watching the world’s best compete, Madden is still very much community driven. Like Fortnite, Electronic Arts and EA Sports encourage their communities to compete for a shot at greatness. I appreciate that, because while not many are likely to be NFL stars, it’s fun to imagine being one of the best in the world at Madden. After all, that’s the very fantasy that has sold the franchise since the 90’s.

So where do you go to watch the latest Madden tournament? Just going to the tournament page, you’d certainly be forgiven for not knowing where to watch. They do have a Twitch channel which carries their tournaments as well as ancillary content, and you can also find them on Youtube.

As for when, the Madden Classic will be starting their elimination brackets on February 27th, while the Madden Challenge will be March 20th. After those events, teams will be selecting their competitors for next season and then the full Madden season will kick off at the end of the summer. Specific dates have not yet been announced.

Why? Just… why?

There are many people out there of the mind-set that there’s no reason to watch professional Madden when you could just watch professional football. And it’s in that mindset, that I feel like EA does themselves a disservice in their community competition mindset. By convincing people that anyone can do it, they rob the viewers of the idea that they’re watching the very best in the world.

When I watch Perkz play mid-lane for Cloud9, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he’s one of the greatest mid-laners ever and would dumpster me. But if I’m watching Greg, the cashier at the Stop n’ Go down the street, it doesn’t feel like must-see TV. It’s a tricky line that EA is going to have to find a way to walk if they want to make Madden esports really get to the next level. Would the NFL be what it is if they had a bunch of beer-leaguers competing? Of course not. And they need to take the same approach with Madden.

Now to be clear, these Madden tournaments are not a bunch of beer-leaguers. Like any other esport, they are the best players in the world. This is not an indictment on the level of talent, merely on the marketing of that talent. So next time you’re watching a pro Madden event, remember that no, you could not do what the players you’re watching could do. They’ve put in more hours than you can imagine, and would take you to school 100 out of 100 times. They’re the best in the world, and like any other esport, should be revered as such.

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Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images for Microsoft